FROM THE EDITOR: What is the identity of NE Washington?

(BRANDON HANSEN/Managing Editor of the Chewelah Independent)

Nearly ever day when I roll out of bed, I immediately take to the internet to see if there is any news about NE Washington. Lately, it has been a stressful task because we have been inundated with several stories concerning Matt Shea and some activities that have allegedly been carried out in Stevens County.

While this is all a gray area of reporting, a level that this newspaper with its whopping everyday journalist staff of one cannot realistically keep up with while bigger newspapers can fling these stories out without fear of mass boycott movements or businesses pulling their ads, I have to wonder how much is real, how much can be a bit in the world of wonderment and where we all fit into the big jigsaw of society here in NE Washington.

Now, we could delve into the world of white supremacy groups and militias, but I don’t have enough official information to present to you. What does concern me is the fact that this is a spectre we can’t seem to shake here in NE Washington.

But to be honest with you, having grown up in the county and knowing many fantastic people around here, what worries me is if this label begins to stick.

Remember when Richard Spencer made his big to-do in Whitefish, Montana few years ago? The resort town, that I’ve visited numerous times and fell in love with, to be honest, turned into the epicenter of a neo-nazi controversy. That’s not great for tourism.

First off, white supremacy has to be one of the dumbest ideologies conceived that basically resides under the scummy rocks of society by people who don’t have their own lives together. While I don’t want to label people white supremacists who aren’t, I want to also point out that internet lightning rods James Allsup or Richard Spencer who talk of European superiority are trolls who should be banished to the corners of the internet where they have nothing but a small cadre of people living in their mom’s basements. They thrive on your attention and your outrage of their stances.

I’ll be honest; I hate the word “white.” I would prefer that we could celebrate our heritage whether we came from England, France, Ireland, Germany, Scandinavia and many other countries. Celebrate that you have a diverse culture and don’t go after other cultures from other parts of the world because they’re the other and they’re super scary because they’re not “white.” We all bring a lot to the table, regardless of our background. Let’s celebrate our heritage whether its European, African, Native American, Indian, Asian or a mixture.

Now it must be said that many African Americans cannot call back to their heritage, like I can call back to my English or Irish background (yes, odd mix as those guys HATE each other and guess what? Raised in a German family) because, guess what? They were slaves and their heritage was ripped from them. All they can trace back is a few lifetimes ago when they were sold as property. Many African Americans have the last name of their ancestor’s owner. This is a legacy we have to continue to face as America, which at one point considered slaves as 3/5ths human in our own constitution. The African American experience is unlike most other groups of people who came to this country.

But it always seems the internet focuses on a few freak shows that hide up in the woods or have a secret society of losers who like to cosplay Nazis or GI Joe, and their actions get inlayed with a whole region. Look at North Idaho.

When it comes to militias, well what you want to do with your guns and your free time is totally guaranteed under our Bill of Rights. I respect anyone who has the foresight to think they need to be self sufficient and be able to defend themselves in case of a tough emergency or tyranny in many forms. If that’s your pure form, hey, go to town.

However, if any of these rumors are to be believed, the idea of these McMilitias of guys with tacticool Walmart gear who paintball on the weekend is to usurp the government with a dozen of their buddies and establish their own new world order is simply ridiculous. Protection is one thing, but if any of this is to be believed, it’s not operating on a level of reality.

And frankly I don’t think the majority of NE Washington operates under this idealogy. We love our guns, we love our freedom and I don’t blame people for hating government intervention. But we’re certainly not separatists or revolutionaries or at the edge of some grand end of times war. There are lots of blue-collar workers in this area who simply don’t have time to be involved in these grand conspiracy theories or internet LARP-ing of a militia that some claim are the biggest threat to anything and everything these days.

My first reaction to 90 percent of these controversial stories is “I’m tired, I want to go to the Oasis, I don’t care, neither do my friends, we want these few people to stop defining the area and being the ones getting the headlines.

My concern is that our county of farmers, ranchers, loggers, miners, truck drivers, government workers, school teachers, business people, outdoor explorers and much more somehow get lumped into this skiff of media scrutiny that gets put on a small amount of people.

We have to ask ourselves what is the identity we want to have for Northeast Washington? It’s not perfect, but it’s a great part of the country. I’ve been met with nothing but kindness since moving back to this area. I’ve met great Republicans and Democrats, people from all backgrounds, ages and religons.

It seems these days we’re identifying our region more with the problems of the area than the positives. This is all backwards, we should be identifying NE Washington with all its strengths while working on the weaknesses.

If you ask me, NE Washington is a few changes away from being like some Montana areas that are the last great escapes from urban life in America. If we continue to nurture our recreational opportunities, allow art and community events to continue to grow, move forward with a variety of things like better infrastructure and better quality of life, and we’ll still have some of the best natural vistas you can get anywhere.

So we just have to ask ourselves, do we want these frankly embarrassing headlines about camps to train kids for religous war to continue to come from the area? Again, the bulk of us just want to live out our days, raise a family and maybe catch a football game or two.

If this is just a spectre, great. We shouldn’t let that spectre define us. The actions of a few people do not define the greater population as a whole. If a ghost wants to establish themselves in the area, with un-American viewpoints and crackpottery, and we neglect to be repulsed by it or get the point across that they are not welcome, then I guess we deserve the criticism.